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Aws Founders Fund, a strong support for Austrian startups

This interview was held by Burak Buyukdemir, a VC, and the founder / CEO of Etohum, a Turkish accelerator program. The article is written by Nardine B. M’barek, a Contributor Author at Startup Turkey. This is part of the series of interviews done with top European ventures.

Florian Resch is an Investment Manager at aws Gründerfonds. He joined the company in 2015 and currently is responsible for 9 startups from the company’s technology and life sciences’ portfolio. Prior to his appointment at aws Gründerfonds, Florian was in charge of business development activities at Jollydays GmbH in Vienna. He also studied economic law in Vienna and Stanford.

Aws Gründerfonds is an Austrian-based Venture Capital fund, they invest in high-growth startups who are mainly in their later seed and series A/B phase. Aws Gründerfonds has EUR 68.5 million under management. Their main objective is to offer support to startups in terms of establishing a market position as well as sustaining growth.

Florian Resch’s experience at aws Gründerfonds

It has been 3 years and a half since Florian joined aws Gründerfonds. During this period, he had the opportunity to work with amazing founders and teams at different stages, as he describes it “from first discussions through funding rounds, board representation and fortunately also two successful exits.” As an Investment Manager, he had the chance to offer support and mentorship to startups and teams throughout their journey, as well as accompanying them during their early stages. This is, according to him, “the most rewarding part in this profession”.

While working as an Investment Manager for aws Gründerfonds, Florian found his previous experience among M&A as well as being the co-founder and executive of digital companies very useful. His main role consisted of guiding those founders and helping them achieve what they were aiming for in the field of entrepreneurship. Since their job is a little tough, Florian provides all the support and pieces of advice that he could offer them in order to help them succeed at the end.

Aws Gründerfonds is Austria’s most active Venture Capital fund with more than EUR 68.5 million under management. Last year, they closed a total of 21 transactions of which 5 were new investments, 16 follow-up investments, and 2 exists. With the help of other international co-investors, they were able to provide nearly EUR 153 million for Austrian startups since 2013.

Aws Gründerfonds invest in High-tech Austrian startups

The targeted startups of aws Gründerfonds are mainly high-tech Austrian startups who are in their later seed and series A/B phases. As a lead or co-investor, the company mostly invests in equity and mezzanine capital or various flexible contract structures.

As previously mentioned, they invest in Austrian startups especially if they belong to the field of digital, deep tech & industry and life science sector. The phase during which they invest in a startup actually depends on the technology and industry. They want to see proof of market or proof of concept before investing. “In the former case”, Florian stated, “first traction and revenue streams are already generated.” When it comes to the deep tech industry, things are a little bit harder, thus a business model might not be established. That is why aws Gründerfonds prefers to see at least a proof of concept, which means the product’s efficiency and the customers’ willingness to engage with it.  Added to this, startups who want to cooperate with aws Gründerfonds will need to submit a business plan, a pitch deck or other relevant documents.

Startups’ selection process, red flags, and the support they receive

The application process for startups who wish to receive funding from the company is quite easy. They can visit the website of the company and upload their essential documents there. The investment team will, later on, review that application and documents before getting back to the startups with feedback and explanation of the next steps.

When it comes to deciding which startups to invest in, however, aws Gründerfonds’ investment team has a few red flags. For instance, a complete and well-coordinated founder team is crucial to every startup. Since everyone believes that only a great and strong team will be able to make it and achieve their startup’s goal, aws Gründerfonds base themselves on that before deciding whether to invest or not in the startup.

Startups who make it within the portfolio of aws Gründerfonds will receive both start-up and follow on investments that could be up to EUR 3 million, and the preparation of future financing rounds. It depends on the amount of money that the startup needs, but together with their co-investors, they are able to raise up to EUR 15 million.

Aws Gründerfonds’ experience with highly-scalable startups, and recommendation for startups seeking investment

Florian describes this business as a trusted relationship between people primarily. This trust is the most crucial pillar of this business relationship that will, later on, bring efficient support and cooperation. The best experience between investors and startups, therefore, originates from a sound personal basis on top of the necessary things like good and clear communication, as well as non-toxic terms. It is only in this case that good assistance and support could be provided to the startups’ teams. Florian Resch stated that “seeing positive outcomes arise from such inputs is one of the most satisfying parts of my profession.”

Florian’s advice to teams who are looking for funding is to simply do their homework. There are a lot of things to know and study before seeking investment, and which are considered to be very important. They first need to find out if the potential investor is a good fit for their business or not, as well as how and where to approach them exactly. He also stated that in order to get funding, you need to “be open, and transparent, approach the investor at eye level; and be confident.”

─ March 22, 2019